Police and emergency medical services were called just after 4 p.m. Tuesday to the barrier island beach entrance in Toms River, Ocean County, near Seaview Road, for the report of two teens trapped in the sand.
The Toms River Police Department said 18-year-old Levi Caverly and his 17-year-old sister were using frisbees to dig a 10-foot hole when it collapsed.
"Two people buried in the sand, a couple feet," a first responder is heard calling from the scene.
"One is still buried up to the chest. Another one is below the sand," another first responder said.
Emergency crews rushed in, including some from neighboring towns. They used buckets of water, ladders, bulldozers and other heavy machinery in their effort to free the teens.
"One is completely submerged under the sand, probably approximately 10 feet," a first responder said.
The 17-year-old sister was rescued and treated at the scene, police said, but Levi died in the collapse.
On Wednesday morning, Levi's father, Todd Caverly, issued a statement remembering his son as a tech nut with a love of music.
"Levi was himself. He was odd. He was quirky. He was not really concerned with what others thought. He knew Jesus Christ. He was involved in the worship team at church, and was the drummer in a teen/ young adult worship band. He was a tech nut and loved to program. The truth is that Scripture says that all our days are numbered. That there is nothing we can do to add a single hour to our life. He knew that," the statement said.
Authorities tell ABC News they have seen dozens of similar cases over the last few decades in states like California, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and North Carolina.
Just this past weekend, a 13-year-old was killed after being trapped under sand at the Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park in Utah.
Park rangers believed the 13-year-old was digging a tunnel in the side of a sand dune.
Authorities said the general rule is to not dig a hole that is deeper than your knees.